Field of roses narrows as festival in full bloom

It’s a feat that came in very useful to east Berliners defecting to the West — being concealed in suitcases — and Limerick Rose Kayleigh Maher has discovered she, too, can fit into her enormous suitcase in the unlikely event of her requiring an escape route from Tralee, Co Kerry.

The 24-year-old teacher of English was one of 16 Roses who made it through to the live TV interviews on Monday and Tuesday nights, the first woman representing Limerick to make it this far in a decade.

The remaining 48 Roses will learn today, privately, if they’ve made the final cut but all were feted equally at the Rose Ball in The Dome last night.

“My boyfriend’s mother was throwing the suitcase out and I thought it would
be very handy for Tralee,” Kayleigh told the Irish Examiner.

Not affected by weight restrictions like the international Roses, Kayleigh said the suitcase was big enough to hold the 28 outfits she had packed for the week — and even herself.

“I sat into it and asked my Dad to take a quick pic, that I shared with friends,” she said.

And although 28 outfits sounds like a lot, the Kilcornan native admitted she was very lucky and most of what she’s wearing, from her shoes to her headpieces, were kindly sponsored by shops in Limerick.

Kayleigh said although she was delighted to have been selected, this wasn’t foremost on her mind before RTÉs Marty Morrissey called out their names in The Dome on Thursday.

“I didn’t come down to Tralee thinking about being on stage so I was not nervous or thinking about it,” she said.

Still, the relief was huge last night for the 14 other young women representing South Carolina, Fermanagh, Toronto, Kildare, Texas, Germany, Offaly, Florida, Hong Kong, Dublin, Sydney, Yorkshire and Galway.

Kerry Rose Breda O’Mahony is the only one guaranteed her place in the final cut.

There’s definitely something in the water in Rathmore — Rosewater, perhaps, as the east Kerry town has blossomed with three Roses in the last four years.

Mary Hickey represented the home county in 2014 and is back again this year as part of the chaperone team. Denise Collins, also from Rathmore, was the Cork Rose in 2016.

Yesterday, some housekeeping matters were attended to, such as who paired whom for the
remainder of the festival.

Each Rose is assigned an escort before the Rose Trip, which began on Sunday in Kildare. This was rotated yesterday ahead of the Rose Ball.

Jackie Healy-Rae, grandson of the famous political patriarch, will escort Washington Rose Sarah Robertson for the remainder of the festival.

After that matter was sorted, the focus shifted to hair and make-up as the 64 Roses prepared for the social event of the Tralee calendar, the Rose Ball.

Later today, the Roses will attend the opening of the Rose Exhibition at Tralee library.

Tonight’s big event is the Rose Parade when all eyes will be on Hurricane Gert and hoping she’ll steer clear of the southwest.

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